A Brazilian judge on Thursday ordered the lifting of a 48-hour suspension of the services in Brazil of Facebook Inc’s WhatsApp phone-messaging application, overturning an order from a lower court.
The interruption of WhatsApp’s text message and Internet telephone service caused outrage in Latin America’s largest country, where the company estimates it has 100 million personal users, and led to angry exchanges on the floor of Congress.
Rival messaging system Telegram said on Twitter that it received 1 million downloads in Brazil in one day due to the outage.
A judge in the commercial capital Sao Paulo had ordered the suspension of WhatsApp’s services from midnight on Wednesday (0200 GMT Thursday) after the California-based company, despite a fine, failed to comply with two judicial rulings to share information in a criminal case.
After several hours of suspension, WhatsApp services were restored following the injunction from the higher court.
“Considering the constitutional principles, it does not look reasonable that millions of users be affected as a result of the company’s inertia to provide information,” Judge Xavier de Souza from the 11th criminal court of Sao Paulo said in a ruling, recommending a higher fine be imposed on WhatsApp.
The incident highlighted growing international tensions between technology companies’ privacy concerns and national authorities’ efforts to use social media to recover information on possible criminal activities.
“Until today, Brazil has been an ally in creating an open Internet,” Facebook Chief Executive OfficerMark Zuckerberg posted after the interruption of WhatsApp’s services. “I am stunned that our efforts to protect people’s data would result in such an extreme decision by a single judge to punish every person in Brazil who uses WhatsApp.”
According to Band News TV, the criminal case involves a drug trafficker linked to one of Sao Paulo’s most dangerous criminal gangs, the PCC, or First Command of the Capital. The trafficker allegedly used WhatsApp services while committing crimes.
WhatsApp is widely used by people, companies and federal and local governments to send messages and share pictures and videos.
On the floor of Congress, lawmakers expressed their frustration at the suspension.
“This is ridiculous,” yelled congressman Caio Narcio. “What about our freedom to communicate?”
The suspension appeared to affect WhatsApp users outside Brazil’s borders, as hundreds of in Chile and Argentina took to social media on Thursday to complain that the messaging system was also interrupted in the two southern cone countries.
Chilean telecom provider VTR, owned by Liberty Global Inc, said it had re-established service to WhatsApp for its clients by using an “alternative international link.” Earlier it said that difficulty in accessing the app “originated outside of Chile,” without giving details.